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Category: Media

Open Letter to Uber: Your failure of a Disabled Customer

Posted in Accessibility, Cerebral Palsy, Disability Awareness, Disabled Access, Equality & Diversity, Fighting for Change, Making a difference, Media, Personal, and Public Transport

Last weekend was rare for me. I was really looking forward to a short break in London, visiting one of my oldest friends and my sister. I have Cerebral Palsy and a four year old son, so taking a break is a real treat.

We’d arranged a night out and as a wheelchair user, this takes some planning but my best mate had it all in hand. As there was a large group of us, we booked two of your taxis in advance. One to take the majority of our group and the other, an accessible vehicle to accommodate me and my friend; we even got a text to confirm our booking.

As I believe is your standard practice, five minutes before our requested slot, we got another text indicating that you were on your way. So we piled outside just to be ready and the other taxi for our friends arrived. However, our advanced booked accessible vehicle was nowhere to be seen. We waited and waited. No more texts pinged and still we waited. Half an hour later, it was evident that we had been forgotten. There was no way of contacting you to let you know that a vulnerable, disabled customer had just been left high and dry. For had I been alone (as I mostly am in my travels around the country), that’s exactly what I’d have been. Alone and vulnerable, with no way of letting you know of your unforgiveable mistake. Luckily for you, I had my friend to ensure that I wasn’t just left on a dark street, in an unfamiliar city with no way of getting to my destination.

In case you’re interested, we did eventually get to where our party had been waiting over an hour. However, because we couldn’t get an accessible cab, I had to go without my electric wheelchair, which made it difficult and took the shine off what should have been a great night out with my friends.

But I’m afraid my complaint doesn’t stop there. Your initial response when my friend made contact was, as he described it, lacklustre:

So sorry to hear that you did not meet your friends on time.

Although you have requested uberAccess in advance, unfortunately, there’s no available driver-partner to accept your requests that is why it was unfulfilled.

Feedback like yours helps us optimise the pickup experience. We appreciate your patience and understanding.”

 

So if there wasn’t a vehicle available, why did we receive a text five minutes beforehand?

And secondly, you don’t have our patience or understanding. You left us waiting, with no way of contacting you or of getting to our destination. And you ruined our night.

Your response shows a total disregard and ignorance for what you actually did which was to ignore the request of a vulnerable, disabled wheelchair user. Had I been alone, I wouldn’t have known where to go or what to do.

In further correspondence, you go on to suggest we may have misunderstood how the Uber App works and the messages it generates. This is your issue, not ours and the fact remains you have let down a disabled customer at a time when your very presence in London is under threat.

Building an inclusive, more tolerant future

Posted in Accessibility, Disability and kids, Disability Awareness, Education, Equality & Diversity, Fighting for Change, Media, and Schools

I just posted on my Flyinglady Website about how I love going into schools and doing Disability Awareness sessions for the children; I’m so passionate about it that I offer the sessions for free wherever I possibly can.

The sessions help kids to understand that everyone is different and that’s a good thing; life would be incredibly boring if we were all carbon copies of each other.  I go on to try and help the kids to understand how they help people with disabilities and explain how including everybody is so important.  Inclusiveness, in simple, age appropriate language.

Now, as I sit watching the news of yet another, hate driven, evil terrorist attack, I feel despair the same of everyone else. I fear for my little boy and a friend tweets her advice that “All we can do is be the change and teach our children better. The majority of people are good.”

And we are.  The world is full of good, kind, peace loving people and we need to teach our kids – our future – to be the same. Teach them that it’s OK to ask questions, to be curious and that they must be accepting of differences. We need to teach them from a young age about diversity and that age, sex, disability, ethnicity, sexuality and religion make each of us who we are. We’re all different, all unique but ultimately, we’re all human beings and that’s the bottom line which needs to be respected.

So let’s have Disability Awareness on the curriculum but let’s also give Equality and Diversity generally a higher priority from a young age.  Let’s invite a range of people, from all walks of life, to give presentations to schools and allow our children to explore these issues. Let them ask the questions that perhaps their parents would struggle to answer. Let them learn from personal experiences, not just teachers and books.  Perhaps adopting such an approach will help us create a much more tolerate society for our future.

Meryl Streep should be applauded for challenging Mr.Trump

Posted in Accessibility, Cerebral Palsy, Disability Awareness, Disabled Parent, Media, My writing, and Personal

I don’t normally write about anything remotely political on my blog – preferring instead to make the odd rant on Facebook, if something really bothers me.  But this week, something and someone political has tipped me over the edge because it’s more than just politics – it’s about equality.  Anyone know where I’m at yet?

Yes, that’s right: Donald Trump, our US president-elect. Meryl Streep has used her Global Globe acceptance speech to attack Mr. Trump for mocking a disabled journalist working for the New York Times, Serge Kovaleski, who dared to report on Trump’s claim that thousands of US Muslims celebrated the collapse of the World Trade Centre.

Streep said she was heartbroken by Trumps imitation of the journalist and I absolutely applaud her comments. I am extremely proud and thankful that someone who has influence has been brave enough to bring this to the forefront of the media’s attention again.  But her comments have also being endlessly criticised, with many saying Streep could have used her to speech to urge Trump to promote equality and unity going forward. Many people were extremely critical of this pitiful man during the election campaign, but now, suddenly we’re meant to get behind him and hope against hope, that everything will be OK?

I strongly disagree. It is wrong and cowardly for anyone to sweep this behaviour under the carpet, just because in 7 days time this rude and ignorant man will be the (so-called) most powerful man in the world.  Why does that give him the right to abuse woman, mock disabled people and generally disrespect anyone who doesn’t agree with him?

In Trump’s defence, people have claimed he’s mocked others in exactly the same way and Trump himself has said he wasn’t mocking him but I think I may just send Mr. Trump a dictionary as an inauguration gift. Claiming to “not know” about Kovaleski’s condition is no excuse (not that I believe him) – when you’re in the position Trump was and is now in, you make it your business to know.

As a disabled person with Cerebral Palsy and a woman, Trump has shocked and offended me numerous times; the fact he is about to become US President is unbelievable. But this is what’s worse: disabled people have fought for years and are still fighting for equality and to be accepted into society. Yet Trump, the soon-to-be most influential man in the world, and his fans think it’s acceptable to mock disability and then defend his actions. And then they attack someone who is prepared to make a stand for disabled people.

I fear for America and equality over the next for years.  Well done Meryl for making a stand,

Disability Etiquette equals good manners & common sense

Posted in Accessibility, Cerebral Palsy, Customer Service, Disability Aids, Disability Awareness, Disabled Access, Equality & Diversity, Fighting for Change, Flyinglady Training, Media, and Personal

My latest book, “A disability Etiquette Guide” is something I’ve been wanting to write for a while now and last week, I was reminded why it’s so important for me to write it.

I was on my way to Nottingham, to the Charity CP Sport, of which I am a proud trustee. I asked for the ramp to be put down  as I use an electric wheelchair. It’s a popular train but I was absolutely astounded by my fellow passengers, who proceeded to rush on to the train whilst the customer service guy was attempting to put the ramp into position for me.

They all rushed past him and me, desperate to claim a seat and a place for their luggage. Never mind thinking about me and how it might be easier for me to get into the wheelchair spot when the carriage is relatively clear of passengers and luggage.  Never mind simple manners and common sense.

One passenger even walked up the ramp in front of me! Unbelievable!

And that’s the essence of my book: Good manners and applying common sense can go a long way in improving the lives of those with disabilities.

Please offer me a seat – improving travel for disabled people?

Posted in Accessibility, Customer Service, Disability Awareness, Disabled Access, Disabled Parent, Equality & Diversity, Flyinglady Training, Media, Personal, and Public Transport

 

Whilst browsing through my twitter account yesterday, I became aware of a new scheme which Transport for London are trialling, which encourages passengers to give up their seat for someone who needs it more, particularly disabled passengers.  Participating passengers will have a card and wear a badge, saying “Please offer me a seat.”

As a disabled wheelchair user who regularly uses public transport, albeit not in London much, I have very mixed feelings about this.  Although I am fortunate enough to at least always have my own seat, (thankfully!)  I am often left very frustrated by my fellow passengers attitudes, who fail to consider my needs by pushing on to trains or buses in front of me and using the designated wheelchair space as a dumping ground for their luggage. (Rather than taking the time to put it in the designated space for luggage)  It is much easier to manoeuvre my wheelchair before everyone else gets on but few people ever consider this.

So on the one hand, I think Transport for London should be generously applauded for taking the initiative to improve things for disabled people; they have identified this as a significant problem and are taking proactive steps to improve the experience for disabled passengers, particularly those who may not feel confident in speaking up to tell people what they need.

But on the other hand, I feel sad and frustrated that it’s considered that such schemes are needed. If people were more considerate and thoughtful, we would all have a much more positive experience of public transport, including disabled people.  If we all moved as far as possible, leaving the front seats available for those who need them, as is the intention, there would be less need for people to move – and be torn away from their Smart Phones! 🙂

Common sense also plays a big part.  We all need to be aware of those around us and be prepared to assist those who may need a seat or even assistance with luggage etc.

I think many disabled people may also feel self-conscious about wearing a badge which advertises the fact that they have a disability. Others may feel cheeky about asking for a seat, particularly if their disability isn’t immediately obvious. And although I understand that the scheme relies upon goodwill, unfortunately this isn’t always forthcoming and some disabled people may fear confrontation from those who question their greater need for a seat.

Despite my reservations, I hope the scheme is successful and at the very least, encourages people to be a little more considerate of the needs of their fellow passengers.

Now proud Trustee of Cerebral Palsy Sport

Posted in Accessibility, Cerebral Palsy, Disability and kids, Disability Awareness, Media, and Personal

At my book launch back in September, one of my guests told me about a charity which was looking for new trustees – Cerebral Palsy Sport.  I wasn’t sure though.  I’ve never been into sport and I wasn’t sure if I’d have the time to commit to the charity.

Nonetheless, I decided to take a look at the CP Sport website and I have to say, I was interested. The main focus of the organisation is support people with Cerebral Palsy to reach their sporting potential and to improve their quality of life through sport, physical activity and active recreation.  Having worked in a charity for seven years previously, I felt I’d have something to offer them, even if I wasn’t especially sporty!   After a phone call with the CEO, I was hooked and decided to put in an application.

After a very friendly and welcoming interview, I am proud to say that I’ve been appointed on to the board and am looking forward to the new challenges which lie ahead. My first being to support the Charity with its “Get. Set. Raise” Appeal this March – which is also Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month.

The aim of the appeal is to raise £10,000 and there’s 3 main ways that people can get involved:

  • “Do your bit in your sports kit”  – go to work or school in your sports kit and make a donation;
  • Organise a sports themed event – bake sale, sports quiz or a mini-Olympics;
  • Take on a personal challenge – the choice is yours!!

 

I’m proud to be apart of this brilliant charity and would urge you to get involved too!

Bringing Disability into the media spotlight

Posted in Cerebral Palsy, Disability Awareness, Does it wet the bed?, Equality & Diversity, Fighting for Change, Making a difference, Media, My writing, and Personal

 

Having a speech impairment, I’ve always hated the sound of my own voice. Not only that, but I have at times, struggled to make other people understand me.

So when I started promoting my first book, “Does it wet the bed?”, my publicists, Literally PR, asked what types of activities I’d be comfortable doing.  “Anything,” I replied, “except radio.” I feared other people disliking my voice as much as I did and turning off their radios in frustration at not understanding a word I said.

But then I paused just to think about it. Disability is still misunderstood and disabled people are still overlooked. And why? Because disability is shied away from in every aspect of life, but especially by the media.  Yes, we occasionally see disabled people on TV but I can’t never help feeling that this is a “token gesture” – disabled people are seen which is great but we are very rarely heard.  Disabled characters in my favourite soaps are a massive step forward but their lives and the issues they face on a daily basis are rarely highlighted or explored.

By shying away from radio, I realised, I was feeding the problem. So what if my speech is slow and people need to listen a little more carefully?  So what if a few impatient listeners tune out? Society needs to be more exposed to disability in order to be more understanding and accepting of it.

Since then, I’ve done two radio interviews and received brilliant feedback from both.  I’ve actually enjoyed them!  My confidence is definitely growing and I’m proud to be helping to bring disability into the media spotlight.

Interview anyone?!

Legislation doesn’t improve knowledge of disability

Posted in Disability Awareness, Does it wet the bed?, Equality & Diversity, Fighting for Change, Making a difference, and Media

Since “Does it wet the bed?” was released, I’ve done several interviews for newspapers, magazines and radio shows. Each has focused on different aspects of the book and my life but nearly all of them have included the following (or similar) question: “Have attitudes towards disability changed since you were a child?”

My answer has always been yes; things have definitely improved in the past 30 years but we still have a long way to go. Although we now have legislation to protect the rights of disabled people, this isn’t as useful as it could be because people simply don’t understand disability. They still make wild assumptions without actually knowing any fact.

I’ve never been more certain of that than when scrolling through my twitter feed this morning. I follow Cherylee Houston, the actress who plays Izzy in Coronation Street. I was outraged to read her recent tweets, describing how a complete stranger knocked on her front door and informed her partner that she was a “benefits cheat” and he was going to the papers.  Why, you might ask? Because he had spotted Cherylee, who uses an electric wheelchair, dare to take a few steps.  She therefore, must be according to him, a cheat and a liar who is only pretending to have a disability. And oh, she has a disability so she must be claiming benefits.  Ever heard the phrase, to make an assumption is to make an ass of you and me?!  He’s the only ass in this case.

Hats off to Cherylee for taking it all in her stride but this is just one incident which highlights just how much work we still need to do in this country to raise awareness of disability and stub out the ignorance which is blighting the lives of disabled people. Who gives anyone the right to knock on someone’s door and abuse them in this way?  I’m glad Cherylee wasn’t home at the time and wasn’t directly subjected to this utter trash but no doubt it was equally as upsetting and disturbing for her partner.  I hope this low-life does go to the papers as it may help to highlight the pure ignorance and stupidity which is holding disabled people back.

We can have all the legislation we like, but there is so much misunderstanding about disability and until people are educated, disabled people will continue to be the subjects of hate crime.

Casting Call for Extraordinary mums-to-be

Posted in Cerebral Palsy, Disability and kids, Disability Awareness, Disabled Access, Disabled Parent, Family, Fighting for Change, Media, and Motherhood

On behalf of Curve Media

Few mums-to-be would say that pregnancy is easy or stress-free, but for some women, having a baby presents exceptional challenges.

 

Curve Media have been commissioned to make a second series of 6 x 60 minute episodes for Discovery, on the subject of pregnancy called “My Extraordinary Pregnancy”.

 

This factual series will take a look at unusual pregnancies around the world- meeting mums-to-be who are juggling the excitement and anxiety that pregnancy is expected to bring, but who might have an extra ‘something’ to take into account.

 

We’re looking for women who are experiencing their pregnancy with a pre-existing condition or disability of their own (such as dwarfism or visual impairment) or have a condition brought on by the pregnancy (like extreme cravings, or severe morning sickness).

 

We’re also looking for mums-to-be who, might have previously been told they were unlikely to conceive due to unusual gynaecology.

 

Across this observational documentary series, we’ll follow these women through their unusual pregnancies, as they and their families prepare for the birth of their baby. We’re hoping to film with the pregnant mum’s medical practitioners to help the audience understand how the expectant mother’s condition affects her experience of pregnancy medically, while the mum-to-be and their loved ones will take us through the day to day realities of their unusual pregnancy.

 

If you think you may have members, or know of families or individuals, who would be interested in the possibility of our helping them share their pregnancy story, please do call or email the My Extraordinary Pregnancy producers on 0203 179 0099 / extraordinarypregnancies@curvemedia.com – we’d love to hear from you.

 

Please note: We will use and store the personal details contained in your email and any further response, in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998, for the sole purpose of producing the programme.

Giving people with Cerebral Palsy a voice

Posted in Accessibility, Cerebral Palsy, Disabled Access, Does it wet the bed?, Equality & Diversity, Fighting for Change, Making a difference, Media, My writing, and Personal

This week is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Week and today, 7th October, is World CP Day.  As someone with Cerebral Palsy, I’m delighted to be part of such an occasion that will highlight Cerebral Palsy, raise awareness of the condition and celebrate the achievements of those who have CP.

I’ve always found that disability and Cerebral Palsy are viewed in a negative light and both are hugely misunderstood. My recent book, “Does it wet the bed?” highlights the misconceptions that I’ve fought against, the pity which I’ve tried hard to ignore and the discrimination which I’ve refused to let destroy my confidence.  It was really important to me that people knew that having Cerebral Palsy hasn’t held me back or ruined my life.  Far from!  I’ve enjoyed a mainstream education and got a 2:1 Honours degree; held down a full time job before venturing into self-employment and most importantly to me, I’ve become a wife and mother.

As a society, I don’t think disability is discussed enough and World CP Day is a fantastic opportunity for people to learn more about the condition and hopefully, challenge their own perceptions about people with Cerebral Palsy.  I’ll be hosting a live Q&A session on Twitter between 1-2pm GMT (@Aideen23Henry)  so that people can ask questions about Cerebral Palsy, what it’s like to live with the condition and the experiences I’ve had as a result of having Cerebral Palsy. I really hope people will take this opportunity to learn more about it and that this whole week gives people with CP a voice.

But it must go beyond that.  When this week is over, we shouldn’t just forget about it.  We need to get our politicians to understand the issues which people with CP (and other disabilities) face and get them doing more to remove the barriers which still exist within society.  We need to raise awareness with employers and ask them to provide more opportunities to those with Cerebral Palsy. And we need to constantly challenge the perceptions of the general public so that eventually, there are no barriers to people with Cerebral Palsy living fulfilling and rewarding lives.